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Journal of Clinical Microbiology, October 2000, p. 3561-3571, Vol. 38, No. 10

Serodiagnosis of Louse-Borne Relapsing Fever with Glycerophosphodiester Phosphodiesterase (GlpQ) from Borrelia recurrentis

Stephen F. Porcella,1 Sandra J. Raffel,1 Merry E. Schrumpf,1 Martin E. Schriefer,2 David T. Dennis,2 and Tom G. Schwan1,*

Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana 59840,1 and Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, Colorado 805222


Received 20 March 2000/Returned for modification 2 June 2000/Accepted 28 July 2000

Human louse-borne relapsing fever occurs in sporadic outbreaks in central and eastern Africa that are characterized by significant morbidity and mortality. Isolates of the causative agent, Borrelia recurrentis, were obtained from the blood of four patients during a recent epidemic of the disease in southern Sudan. The glpQ gene, encoding glycerophosphodiester phosphodiesterase, from these isolates was sequenced and compared with the glpQ sequences obtained from other relapsing-fever spirochetes. Previously we showed that GlpQ of Borrelia hermsii is an immunogenic protein with utility as a serological test antigen for discriminating tick-borne relapsing fever from Lyme disease. In the present work, we cloned and expressed the glpQ gene from B. recurrentis and used recombinant GlpQ in serological tests. Acute- and convalescent-phase serum samples obtained from 42 patients with louse-borne relapsing fever were tested with an indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) that used whole cells of B. recurrentis and with immunoblotting to whole-cell lysates of the spirochete and Escherichia coli producing recombinant GlpQ. The geometric mean titers of the acute- and convalescent-phase serum samples measured by IFA were 1:83 and 1:575, respectively. The immunoblot analysis identified a high level of reactivity and seroconversion to GlpQ, and the assay was more sensitive than the whole-cell IFA and ELISA using purified, recombinant histidine-tagged GlpQ. Serum antibodies to GlpQ and other antigens persisted for 27 years in one patient. We conclude that assessment of anti-GlpQ antibodies will allow serological confirmation of louse-borne relapsing fever and determination of disease prevalence.

* Corresponding author. Mailing address: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, 903 S. Fourth St., Hamilton, MT 59840. Phone: (406) 363-9250. Fax: (406) 363-9445. E-mail: .

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Journal of Clinical Microbiology, October 2000, p. 3561-3571, Vol. 38, No. 10


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